Not suitable for children: The dark side of JK Rowling

With the Potter days behind her, the author explains her obsession with killing characters

As JK Rowling revealed the secrets of her hugely anticipated new novel, she told the adoring crowd something her earlier work had only hinted, that she was "obsessed" by death.

The Casual Vacancy, her first book aimed at adults, was released at 8am yesterday and the celebrated writer took to the stage of London's Queen Elizabeth Hall some 12 hours later.

They did not come in wizard's cowls or with lightning bolts felt-tipped on their heads. It was an audience that had grown up into their late teens and early 20s with Harry Potter. And a fair share of older fans as well. Rowling rarely appears in public, but held her poise when met by a standing ovation from large sections of the sell-out crowd of 900.

When asked about the adult subject matter in a book that starts with a death, the author said: "Death obsesses me. I can't understand why it doesn't obsess everybody." She later added that writing about death "has made me much less afraid of it".

Rowling said her view was coloured by her mother dying when the author was 25, and being part of an aged family "people did die a lot in my teens".

While the release of Rowling's first novel in five years had met with mixed reviews from the critics, there was nothing but adoration last night.

She was interviewed on stage by BBC journalist Mark Lawson, who kicked off by talking about the author's involvement with the Olympic Opening Ceremony, where she read a passage from Peter Pan. "It's one of the best things I've ever, ever done. I was proud to be part of it." After 15 years much of the Potter references are "white noise" but the sight of Voldemort rising up gave her "a full body chill. It was a big moment for me".

Rowling had flown from Edinburgh to London on the morning of the release, spending much of the day trying to avoid reading reviews. She has not always been comfortable in front of audiences of adults. Crime writer and friend Ian Rankin believes she is in her element "in a room of kids". And she was in her element last night with the questions from her young fans. One had flown in from Spain and got a hug from the author as he gave her a present.

She revealed that she would change "quite a few things" about the Potter series stylistically and a few plot points including giving Harry a map that proved "far too useful". She revealed Dumbledore as her favourite character from that series but had no regrets over killing off some of the most prominent characters.

The Casual Vacancy is set in the fictional town of Pagford, and follows the chaos that ensues after the death of a local parish councillor. It covers heroin addiction, prostitution, drug dealing and rape. "This isn't Harry, Ron and Hermione. These are very different teenagers; contemporary teenagers," she said. "I genuinely think that this is a humorous book. Some of that humour may be dark."

There is also a strong theme of social justice, about which Rowling herself feels very strongly. Residents of her childhood village of Tutshill in Gloucestershire denied that they had inspired the "snobby" attitudes of the middle class community. "It's life in a small town and everything that entails," she said. "Pagford is fictional."

The Independent's book editor said that despite being "slowed down by its fussy class geography and wheezing plot-motor, the novel builds into a vividly melodramatic climax".

Read all about it: JK Rowling on...

e-books: "I was hesitant as I didn't know what they were."

printed books: "I'll always love print. I can't read an iPad in the bath."

the Harry Potter film casting: "They were all too good looking."

the swearing in her book: "To depict Krystal without swearing would be ridiculous."

the Harry Potter books: "There are things I would change – quite a few things."

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering